Showing posts with label Clifden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clifden. Show all posts

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Eating and Shopping in Connemara. Joyce Country. Day 3

Connemara Day 3
Coast Drive - Spiddal Shopping Spree - Joyce Country - Sky Road - Mitchell’s Fish Special


P1160014a.jpg
A boat waits for better weather on the River Bealanabrack at Maam
P1150996a.jpgA super fish meal at Mitchell’s in Clifden, eased down with a beautiful bottle of Chateau la Brie (Bergerac), was the highlight of this sometimes misty day in Connemara. The wine is mistakenly listed as Bordeaux on the list but this mix of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc could easily pass among a bunch of the uppity neighbours to the west.

A very high standard was set with the starters. Mine was the fantastically flavoured Grilled Oranmore Oysters, with parmesan and cream, while CL raved over her Tian of local crab, avocado, caramelized apple, vine tomato salsa.


No let up with the superb main courses: Pan fried Wild Monkfish and mussels, cream cauliflower, spring onion, caper and lemon butter and the Pan Fried Haddock, Killary Mussels, Cauliflower puree, caper and lemon butter. And even the sides, boiled potatoes and vegetables, were superb.


The final decision of the meal was to to split one dessert and this was the most gorgeous Banana and Belgian Chocolate Nut Pudding with Lemon Meringue ice-cream and hot chocolate ganache.


Mitchell’s, where unusually all the front of house are male, regularly top the restaurants lists in Clifden and I'm now adding a Very Highly Recommended. And a warning to book early!


P1160010a.jpg
Tasty crumble at Spiddal cafe
Went on something of a shopping spree at the Ceardlann in Spiddal earlier. Started with a sweet pastry treat at the highly recommended Builín Blasta, the cafe in the craft village. Good coffee and a very tasty Plum Crumble set me up for the shopping.

Not all the shops were open but quite a few were and it was great to meet and chat with the craftspeople and artists. We did the rounds twice and ended up with a couple of bags of jewelry, glassware by Sue Donnellan and also some ceramic pieces from Sliding Rock. And absolutely no regrets.


On the contrary, it is fabulous to be able to buy local and support our hard-working talented craftspeople. Buying local is generally termed as buying local food but it should apply to everything we can produce, provided it is sold at a fair price. Buy local, buy fair.

Looking forward to giving out a few presents when I get back and also to seeing some of the stuff mounted on the walls at home. If you are in the Galway area, do try and visit. Very Highly Recommended.


It took us quite a while to get to Spiddal. After the sunshine of the past two days, we set off in a persistent mist. Still, that didn't stop us from heading to the limits of the coast. Drove around the loop from Glinsk to the sea and back to Carna. Tough country here. Fields of boulders and hard for the few cattle to find firm ground and a square of grass.


By the way, an attraction (it has many) of Galway is that it is one of the most accessible places in Ireland to see, close up, farm animals and their young: Cattle, Ponies, Donkeys, Goats, Sheep and, of course, lots of Connemara lambs.


After Carna, we headed off to the islands, at least the islands linked by bridges: Leitir Móir and Leitir Meallain. Quite spectacular, even if the drizzle was never that far away.


The mist was easing off after Spiddal and, instead of going underground (as originally planned) to the Glengowla mines near Oughterard, we headed to Maam Cross and up to the Joyce Country. Barren mountains and lakes surrounded us as we drove on past Maam itself and then down into Leenane, following the same valley whose flanking hills then enclose the famous fjord.


P1160019a.jpg
Clifden in the evening
Back then to Clifden but not before taking one more turn (for old time's sake) on the Sky Road. It might have been dull but the drive was still a delight. A wee rest and it was off to Mitchell’s to enjoy the last big meal of the trip.

Must say also that our base in the Dun Ri guesthouse was excellent. Very central, very comfortable, and a good breakfast every morning and a friendly chat or two thrown in, sometimes with the owners, sometimes with the other guests (one a winemaker from Wisconsin), or with both. Check it out!

Connemara Day 1
Connemara Day 2
A different view of Kylemore Abbey


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spectacular Connemara

Connemara Day 2

P1150974a.jpg
Killary Harbour
Connemara National Park - Kylemore Abbey & Walled Garden - Drive to Leenane - Lough Inagh - Roundstone - Ballyconneely - Mitchell’s Restaurant.
P1150977a.jpg
Lough Inagh
An action packed day in Connemara. You could perhaps leave out the action but it was surely packed and we deserved our lovely evening meal at Mitchell’s in Clifden. When we left Clifden in the morning, a soft mist was falling but that had more or less vanished by the time we reached Letterfrack and pulled into the Connemara National Park. 
P1150920a.jpg
A tangle of trees in Connemara National Park
Some impressive items in the Visitor Centre, including a pine tree trunk that has been carbon dated to 8,600 years ago. There are quite a few walks here, one that takes you right to the top of Diamond Hill. But we took a shorter one and admired that landmark from a distance. We also has some great views over to the sea, including Inishbofin Island.
P1150958a.jpg
Part of Ireland's largest walled garden in Kylemore
P1150944a.jpg
Salmon and Spinach Quiche at Kylemore cafe
Next stop was Kylemore Abbey, the scene of an 19th century love story between Mitchel Henry and his wife Margaret for whom he built Kylemore as a residence. But she died prematurely in Egypt and the fun and games (shooting, fishing, billiards, even Turkish baths) stopped. He built a gothic church in her memory and eventually joined her in a mausoleum that, like the church, still stands.

In 1920, the residence was bought by the Benedictine nuns and became an abbey. And the tour reveals many links between Ireland and Ypres in Belgium where the nuns came from.


P1150988a.jpg
Well known Connemara scene, with some of the Twelve Pins behind.
The nuns also ran a boarding school (recently closed) and are now restoring the very impressive Victorian walled garden that Henry built. It is the largest such garden in Ireland and if you are caught for time when visiting Kylemore, make the garden your priority! It is a twenty minute walk but there is a shuttle bus. We had a nice lunch in the Mitchell’s Kylemore cafe and you’ll also find a spectacularly situated tea house up by the walled gardens.


On exiting the abbey, turn left and head for Leenane and a special drive, starting with lakes and mountains to your right. Changes then to bogs and mountains before you drop down towards Leenane getting spectacular views of Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord, on the way. Well worth the trip, even if you turn back in Leenane.


P1150990a.jpg
Evening in Roundstone
We did turn back and picked up the road to Lough Inagh. Not very well known but many say it is a must visit. Surrounded by mountains, it is certainly a beautiful place. Continued on to the main road back to Clifden and found the well known waters, with the Twelve Pins behind, on the right. It is one of the most photographed sights here so I just added to the statistics as you can see above.

We then drove down to Roundstone and its harbour with the same mountains in the background. Lovely spot but the Post Office, on the main street, could badly do with a coat of paint! Next stop was Ballyconneely and its fish smokery. Soon we were back in our Dun Ri base in Clifden.


Dinner was firmly on the agenda and we booked a table at a pretty busy Mitchell’s in the middle of the town. This was a major step-up on the previous evening. We picked from the three course menu for 25.95. A massive bowl of well made chowder got me on my way while CL enjoyed a Cod and Salmon Fish Cake (Chilli, Fig and Apricot Chutney).

Good choice of mains and I was very well pleased with my Baked Hake, dressed Savoy Cabbage, Crispy Bacon and Mustard Cream with a side of boiled potatoes. Really top notch. CL appreciated the quality of her Mitchell's Fish Bake, locally sourced white fish "fused" with melted leeks and a light topping of house mash. Quite a lot of good stuff!

Desserts were nothing to write home about, so we won’t. Overall though, it was excellent and we booked again for the next night.
Connemara Day 1
Connemara Day 3

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Connemara. Day 1

Connemara
Day 1
The Sky Road - Clifden - Cleggan - Oughterard - Lough Corrib - Ross Lake
The Sky Road

Day 1


A drive along the Sky Road, out of Clifden, was the highlight of our opening day in Connemara. There is an Upper and Lower Sky Road (they form a loop) but it seems the upper one is more rewarding. Some spectacular views, under a mix of blue and grey skies, unfolded as we headed west and quite a few photo stops were made.


Decided then to head for Cleggan and saw the ferry from Inishbofin coming in. Had thought of having some food in Oliver’s in the village but it looks as if it’s weekends only for the time being so we headed back to our base, Dun Ri in Hulk Street in Clifden. Must ask our hosts how the street name came about!

Ross Lake, near Moycullen

The day had started under a grey sky in Cork and we saw hopeful streaks of blue as we headed north and west. The journey was quite uneventful and we reached our first scheduled stop in Oughterard on time. After a cup of tea and a scone at a local cafe, the Boat Inn, we headed for nearby Lough Corrib, the republic’s largest lake.


And very impressive it was. Coming from Galway, you turn right, in the middle of Oughterard, and soon you are on the banks of the lake. We made one or two stops but the best viewing point is about eight kilometres out the road. Here you get an idea of the size of the lake and see some of its many islands. This is a dead end so head back to the town which, by the way, is home to McGeough's, well known for their air dried meats.
Lough Corrib
If you look at the map of Connemara you’ll see that it is dotted with many small lakes.  We saw quite a few as we headed west to Clifden. A Thursday night in early April in Connemara is fairly quiet, as you might expect.


Still Guy’s Bar, where I enjoyed one of their Gourmet Pizzas (their breaded Lemon Sole wasn’t as well appreciated), was busy enough, with French and American visitors among the guests. Mannion’s was another bar serving food and here I sipped the final pint of the day before strolling down to Dun Ri and waking up the Apple Mac with these few paragraphs.
Connemara Day 2
Connemara Day 3
Pizza Gourmet: Caramelised onion, blue cheese and rosemary